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Trip Report Ken/Tanz. trip report - Part I

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This report may not be as eloquent as others, but it comes from the heart. We left Boston 10/15 and arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport, via Amsterdam, on schedule the evening of 10/16. The next day we went to Arusha National Park for a picnic, and it was there my friends who live in Arusha, my husband and I went atop a small hill and let the wind carry from our hands some of my Mom's ashes. It felt good and any doubts I had about whether I was doing the right thing were quickly squelched. That little part of her we let go blew down below to the Momela Lakes, which were filled with flamingoes. After a few days with our friends, my husband and I left the morning of 10/19 for my beloved Tarangire National Park. As I have said time and time again, this park is fantastic. A short ride (about two hours) on paved road from Arusha, it is just filled with wildlife. Enroute to our accommodation we saw numerous dik-dik, common zebra, two herds of elephants and four lions lazily sleeping along the shore of the Tarangire River - which was really nothing more than a trickle of water, yet a vital water source this time of year for the wildlife. We stayed at Kikoti Camp, which is very nice and reminds me in some ways of Tortilis in Amboseli. The tents have ensuite facilities, (flush toilet and piped water for the sink) with water being delivered for a hot shower on only 10 mins. notice! Tastefully decorated in muted colors, the tent had a lovely desk, two chairs and a coffee table inside. Simple but well done, even down to the giraffe pillows on the bed! The meals are well prepared, albeit a bit spicy for our taste buds, but neither of us went hungry. One thing I like so much about Kikoti is that your guide (whether a camp guide or an operator guide) dines with you. This is a great time to plan the next day's activities and just a good time to get to know each other. We went on a night game drive, which are conducted in camp vehicles on a shared basis. We saw giraffe, spotted hyena, jackals, wild cat, impala, etc. Anyone who has not done a night game drive should do so the next opportunity they have as it offers a very different perspective! The next day we stumbled upon a pride of lion resting under a tree no more than 20 feet from the road. Four glorious females and a young male, whose mane was just starting to come in. Toward noon time our guide took us back along the Tarangire River, where we came upon a small herd of elephants thoroughly enjoying a mud bath. Another mile or so down the road, we came upon another herd of elephants (10 or so), with a HUGE male standing guard over the sleeping babies. Most unusual and he definitely had his guard up as we watched them all. In Tarangire, there is a massive baobab tree that is known as Poacher's Tree, because poachers used to hide inside the hollowed-out trunk. It was here I decided to leave some of my Mom's ashes. Make something good out of something that had such a horrible history. Anyway, as my husband and I deposited some of the ashes, elephants began trumpeting off in the distance. "The elephants know Momma Irma is here. They are welcoming her," our guide said. I know it was a coincidence that the elephants trumpeted at that moment, but I like to think that they were welcoming her arrival. I declared the tree be renamed "Momma Irma's Tree" and in the distance more elephants trumpeted. "They know and they understand," our guide said. Upon our arrival back at camp very late that afternoon (early evening actually!), we were told that lions had just passed through the camp. Sure enough, we saw the spoors in the pathway as we were escorted to our tent. Our time in Tarangire was up, but that magnificent little park had one more gift for me - on our way to the park gate, we spotted a leopard in a tree, with a herd of elephant passing underneath! Is it any wonder I love Tarangire as much as I do???!!!! We left Oct. 21 for Lake Manyara National Park, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. The entrance to Manyara is lush and green, with lots of little rivers to sustain the wildlife. We saw baboons and vervet monkeys and a wide array of birds. Following our lunch, we went on a game drive toward the alkaline lake. We saw many elephants, but the one thing that particularly struck us were the five giraffe we spotted all sitting down near the lakeshore! I had not seen so many doing that before! A highlight of our Manyara visit was the impromptu golf lesson my husband gave our guide when we stopped to stretch our legs. Nearby wildebeest were startled when Michael used a stick and a small ball of elephant dung to show what a "drive" is! We drove from Manyara to Karatu, where we spent the night at Plantation Lodge. Beautifully appointed individual bungalows with very modern bathrooms and each has a sitting room with a working fireplace. Each bungalow has a small stone patio, and it is here they serve - at each bungalow - coffee and tea and biscuits in the late afternoon. Guests gather in the lounge before dinner and then are shown to their individual tables. The dining area is lovely and there is even an outdoor area, should you want to dine there. After a good night's rest, we left the next morning for the Crater. Michael was not feeling well at all, so upon our arrival at the Serena (which was quite fast thanks to the paved road!), we requested the doctor see Michael. Dr. Eric Mfininga was extremely professional and efficient. I wont go into details, but needless to say, Michael did not feel up to going on a game drive. He opted for bed rest. "Go to the Crater and find a rhino for me," Michael said as I walked out the door. "Easier said than done," I thought. Little did I know that the first animal our guide spotted on the way down to the Crater floor (as someone who wears glasses I continually marvel at their eyesight!) was a black rhino, which we were fortunate enough to get within 40 or so feet as it passed in front of our vehicle. My guide guessed where the rhino was heading off to, and, sure enough, it passed us again as we waited for it. I got Michael his rhino! Now lets just hope the pictures turn out! For lunch, our guide and I decided to eat near the Ngoitokitok Springs. We happily ate and talked while watching two bull elephants graze about 150 yards away. "Wouldn't it be cool if one of them came over to visit us," I said. A few minutes later, one of the bulls turned in our direction and began heading our way. At first we thought the elephant would stop as soon as it caught site of us, but it did not. Only when the elephant was within 30 or so feet of us still standing outside the vehicle did our guide tell me to "quietly" get inside the vehicle. I did and once inside I decided to try and take a picture. But I had my zoom lense on and the elephant was too close for the lense!!!! In addition to the rhino encounter, the other highlight was coming upon two sleeping (what else?) male lions, with two female lions sleeping about 50 feet away. And guess what was on the ground in the tall grass between the four lions? A leopard. Yeap, leopard #2 in two days time. For its predicament, the leopard actually looked very relaxed. It was lifting its face to the fading sun and flicking its tail. It was only when one of the male lions managed to lift its head up that the leopard bolted from the grass and up a nearby tree. Did he not know the lions were there? Did they catch him by surprise? Only the leopard knows for certain. It was a good day on the Crater floor, and thanks to Dr. Eric, Michael was feeling much better by dinner time. After a good night's sleep, he felt almost back to normal and it was time for us to leave the Crater and head to the Serengeti.

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